Executive search – also known as headhunting – is a premium recruitment service used by companies to help them to hire candidates. Typically, companies will engage an external headhunting firm to help them with a particular hire.
One of the ways in which executive search firms are different from normal recruitment agencies is that they typically use a retained fee model. This means that the headhunting firm is paid not just when the candidate is placed, but with money up front to help them map the market. This retained model is necessary for most headhunting firms as they seek to thoroughly map the market and spend a lot of time contacting and converting passive candidates who aren’t actively looking for a new role.
By contrast, most normal recruitment agencies will just advertise positions and reach out to a few already-known candidates rather than extensively research and map the market. Because of their less-intensive business model, most recruitment agencies charge a percentage of the salary of the placed candidate, with fees only due on placement. Executive search firms have far greater market research costs, and therefore can’t operate on a purely contingent model.
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